www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/harford/belair/ph-ag-ravens-nest-belair-1010-20121007,0,7110794.story

baltimoresun.com

Baltimore Ravens Nest #1 roosts in downtown Bel Air

BY SIMON HABETAMARIAM, Special to The Aegis

4:50 PM EDT, October 9, 2012

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There are many personas in the Baltimore Ravens fan base in Harford County.

There is the casual fan, who wears purple to the office on Fridays and knows of Ray Lewis. There is the passionate fan, who owns a jersey or two and hates the Steelers. And then there are the diehards, who proudly don purple camouflage pants in public on a Sunday, can recite the entire depth chart of the 2000 Super Bowl team and is able to correctly pronounces "Ayenbadejo."

Diehard fans often have stout rituals. Time, place, cuisine and television situation are all critical factors when it comes to game day. If you alter them, your personal well-being may be at risk.

On Sunday afternoon, members of Ravens Nest No. 1 gathered at the Main Street Tower restaurant in Bel Air, where they usually congregate for the big game. Their typical back-bar setup is complete with their reserved tables, Sunday brunch, 12 HDTVs, two big screen projectors and surround sound for the complete game day experience.

"Most of us have season tickets and go to the stadium," Pat Skebeck, chairperson of the board, said. "But on road games, [owner] Mario [Buontempo] does a good job providing us with a tailgate and specials."

They eat, they drink, they clap and make noise for their Ravens who traveled to Kansas City to play the Chiefs in a 1 p.m. Sunday kickoff.

The Nest has its fair share of quirks. One of the oddest includes three effigies – one for each of the Ravens' divisional foes, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. Regardless of whom they play, whenever the score is tight and the crowd gets nervous, the members stick purple pins into the small, handmade doll with a fake noose around its neck.

Another includes a Ravens gnome, which often travels with members of the Nest on vacation, where each member often photographs the gnome in different locations.

Since 1995, the group has met in support of Baltimore football under a number of different names. In the beginning, the group met in support of Baltimore's representatives in the Canadian Football league, the Baltimore CFL Colts, who were later renamed the Stallions. Likewise, the group that was initially known as Colts Corral No. 39 briefly became the Stallions Corral No. 39.

But in April 1996, when the Baltimore Ravens brought NFL football back to Charm City, the Corral became Ravens Roost No. 39. About thee years later, they branched away from the Ravens Roost and took on their current identity, Ravens Nest No. 1.

The group of approximately 170 super fans isn't limited to game days. They meet on the second Thursday of every month at The Tower on Main Street where official business is conducted. The Nest also supports community charities such as the Special Olympics, the Harford County Discovery League and the Maryland Food Bank in conjunction with the Ravens Wives.

The group's biggest community giveback is the Bud Bitzer Scholarship Award. Named after a deceased founding member, the scholarship is awarded to one football player from every public high school in Harford County, as well as John Carroll. Each player is chosen by his coaches and guidance counselors.

The scholarship is funded by an annual golf tournament put on by the Nest, including Bitzer's wife and children, who are also Nest members. The Nest awarded more than $15,000 in scholarships in 2011 and more than $100,00 over the last decade.

The group's major fundraiser of the year is an annual bull roast, which will be held Friday, Nov. 16, this year.

This particular Sunday produced a weaker than usual showing for the Nest because a large chunk of its contingent was off vacationing in Ocean City, while another group of fans was preparing for Baltimore Orioles' first home playoff game since 1997 that was played Sunday night.

But as with many road games, the Tower was predominantly purple as the Nest carried out its Sunday ritual.

"We just like to be together on game days," Skebeck said. "We like to come up to the Tower; it's our home for away games.